Spokesperson claims most reported instances of ‘forced conversions’ are fictitious and designed to malign Pakistan
Rejecting any perception of institutionalized forced religious conversions, Pakistan’s Foreign Office on Tuesday stressed that minorities in the country are free to profess, practice and propagate their religion.
Responding to media queries in Islamabad, spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said that Islam forbids forced conversions under the Quran and Sunnah. He claimed that most reported cases of forced conversion, upon closer scrutiny, were found to be “fictitious, politically-motivated or based on mala fide intent,” adding that this was part of a concerted effort to malign Pakistan globally. He cited the recent disclosures by EU DisinfoLab as proof that Indian intelligence agencies were spreading disinformation about Pakistan.
Acknowledging a “few incidents” of forced conversions by individuals and non-state actors, Chaudhri said these had been swiftly acted against by state institutions, adding that there was no evidence of any kind of state complicity. He noted that in some instances the state had actually become party to cases against perpetrators of forced conversions to ensure speedy and effective justice.
The spokesman said that rights of minorities were enshrined under the Constitution, adding that these were further supplemented by legal and administrative frameworks. Pakistan’s judiciary too, he stressed, has been very vigilant and clear on the promotion and protection of the basic rights of the country’s minorities. “Our free media and civil society are acting as independent monitors against any incidence of violation of human rights of any minority community and fostering a culture of accountability and transparency,” he added.
Highlighting Prime Minister Imran Khan’s desire to strengthen frameworks for the protection and equal treatment of minorities nationwide, Chaudhri said this was visible in several policy statements, including his inaugural address. “Moreover, internationally, he has attained leadership role on the issue of freedom of religion or belief due to his clear and well-articulated stance on the matter,” he claimed.
The spokesperson also noted that a “fully functional and independent” National Commission for Minorities had been established, and a National Policy of Interfaith Harmony was also being adopted. He said the government would continue taking legal and administrative policy measures to prevent any violation of minorities’ human rights. He said the foundations of our state are firmly laid on the principles laid down by founding father Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and were appropriately reflected in the Constitution. “Contributions of minorities to our society are many and we are proud of them,” he added.
Earlier, a reported published by the Associated Press had alleged that nearly 1,000 Pakistani girls are forcibly converted to Islam each year. This followed the U.S. State Department declaring Pakistan “a country of particular concern” for violations of religious freedoms due, partly, to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom claiming that underage girls in the minority Hindu, Christian and Sikh communities were “kidnapped for forced conversion to Islam … forcibly married and subjected to rape.”